(Updated Oct. 9)
The COVID-19 environment has been difficult for uniformed servicemembers – most notably the uniformed medical community, which has worked in a wartime-like posture to fight the pandemic.
Some of those members – the men and women of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps – received some good news with the recent passage of the continuing resolution (CR). While Congress remains unable to reach an agreement on a budget, the CR did come with a bright spot.
USPHS Commissioned Corps members, unlike those under DoD, NOAA, Coast Guard and the federal civilian workforce, had been unable to extend “use or lose” accrued leave without a change in law. Other services were able to extend leave from 60 to 120 days through Sept. 30, 2023, with a policy change. A provision in the CR, spearheaded by the Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service (COA), temporarily changes USPHS leave policy, allowing those servicemembers to accrue more than 60 days of leave with the same 2023 expiration date as the other services.
As the bill came together, The Military Coalition (TMC) – groups representing more than 5.5 million current and former uniformed servicemembers, veterans, and their families and survivors – sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees asking Congress to rectify this injustice. MOAA is a member of The Military Coalition, which is currently co-led by Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), MOAA's vice president for government relations.
“This is a matter of fairness and parity,” said Capt. Jacqueline Rychnovsky, USN (Ret), executive director of the COA. “Over the past nine months, Commissioned Corps officers have had over 9,500 deployments. These officers are working tirelessly and serving proudly. They deserve to be treated the same as the other uniformed and Federal service employees.”
Although the COVID-19 fight is ongoing, there are bright spots for our uniformed medical community. MOAA and the TMC will continue to advocate for those fighting for us.